New year new smarter me (UK)

Hi all,
Brand new to smart things and it’s world of possibilities- though I am a electrician by trade I’ve only ever used basic nest products, Alexa integrated lighting control etc

Anyway, I’m currently fully refurbing a house that I want to use smart things in, my question to you all is what should I do?
Things I’d like- external HIK cameras, external lighting, internal dimmable lighting, smart lock and possibly in time a automated garden gate.
Can anyone ‘design’ this system for me? Or offer guidance on zigbee/zwave products?
Id really like to create something a bit special and will be grateful of any advice given

Thanks all and a happy new year

Gareth

What part of the world do you live in Gareth ? Its pretty important due to availability of devices and frequencies

1 Like

Thanks for the reply Mike, I’m in the U.K.- South Wales.

1 Like

Welcome! Sounds like an exciting project!. :sunglasses:

There are two very different ways to go about planning a smart home. And separately, there are two very ways to think about budgeting for it.

Hobbyist or Problem Solver?

Some people come to smart homes because they are fascinated by the technology. They read about all the different devices and often tend to be early adopters, sometimes even contributing On Kickstarter to models which aren’t even in the prototype stage yet.

They are often fine with a system which needs a lot of tinkering or customising, while at the same time they tend to have An attraction to a “ One ring to rule them all“ approach and can get quite annoyed if they have to use multiple apps.

They also have a fervent belief that if a device can do something they ought to be able to make it do that, and do that in integration with all of their other devices. They will spend a lot of extra time, and even extra money, in order to unlock these “advanced“ features.“

At the same time, they can be surprisingly tolerant of a system that has multiple glitches as long as it is versatile and powerful overall.

The second group are people who have a specific problem that needs to be solved. Whether it’s a simple as giving a dog walker access to the house in the afternoon but not wanting them to have access at other times, or as complicated as a household with a family member with Alzheimer’s who wanders, They know exactly what problem they need to solve, they just aren’t sure how to do it.

They generally don’t want to tinker with the system after it’s set up, although there are exceptions to that. And reliability is really important to them, because the solution really matters to them.

And because they don’t want to tinker with it after it’s set up, they often don’t care if it takes multiple apps to get the problem solved. They are focused on the solution, not the process. If multiple hubs means better reliability once the solution is in play, they’re usually fine with that.

In some ways that boils down to whether your personal priority is versatility or reliability, but there is a bit more to it than that.

If you saw an amazing new product at an introductory price, would you buy it first and then try to figure out how you were going to use it? if so, I would put you into the hobbyist category. Problem solvers have a problem they are looking for a solution to, and then select the devices on that basis.

Of course, someone could be a bit of both, it does happen, but you can see why these are two different strategies when it comes to automating a home. :sunglasses:

Budgets

There are also two different strategies for budgeting home automation projects, and while there is some correlation to the hobbyist/problem solver categorisation , there’s more to it than that.

The first group sees each device purchased as an investment, a “sunk cost.“ It’s not about how much they paid: some will only buy budget devices and others will buy premium devices. rather, it’s about whether they felt it was good value and in particular their expectation of how long they expect that device to perform After installation.

Some people buy smart light switches and motion sensors as though they were light fittings and plumbing pipes. They somehow expect the devices will work for 10 or 15 years with about the same life as their dumb counterparts. While it’s true that the warranty on most of the smart devices will only be one or two years, they still tend to get infuriated if a smart switch stops working after four. They also generally expect that their hub will work forever, even though the terms of use on almost all home automation smart hubs say that features can be added or removed at any time.

For whatever reason, I think this group is the majority of home automation adopters, whether they are hobbyists or problem solvers. This group spends a lot of time Worrying about futureproofing their investment.

The second group sees Home Automation as a service and the devices as the delivery mechanism for that service And expect to replace individual devices on about the same schedule as they replace their mobile phones. And are prepared to replace the hub every three or four years as well.

They set a monthly budget, again much like they have for mobile phones including device replacement cost, and then go on from there. As long as they don’t go over budget, they are OK with changing out devices when new ones come along with new features that would work better for them.

They don’t change just for the sake of change, but they are prepared to throw out a smart switch or sensor or even hub if there’s something better on the market and it’s in their budget to do so.

My story

I am a network engineer, and psychologically tend to lean towards the hobbyist side, but in recent years I acquired a neuromuscular condition and I’m now quadriparetic. I use a wheelchair and have a limited hand function. That means I have to pay someone else to do almost any tinkering, including just changing the batteries in a device.

So I have, by necessity, moved to the problem solver group in my approach to home automation. After my first year, it became apparent that I had to put reliability at the top of my requirements list, and that changed a lot of things for me.

At the same time, the technology is changing rapidly and costs are coming down on a lot of advanced features overtime. So I budget on the home automation as a service strategy.

I have a certain amount I put aside each month for Home Automation and I expect any device I buy, including a hub, to have delivered full value after three years. If I get more use out of it, that’s great: it just means more money in the budget to try new things. But I don’t try to futureproof anything, even door locks, beyond three years.

That saves me a lot of stress and, in my case, saves me money in not having to pay other people to keep old patchwork systems running.

If you’re curious, I budget for Home Automation about the same as I do for a mobile phone and service, around £100 a month. That has to cover any ongoing subscription fees, The devices, and the hub as well. That would seem like a lot to some people and not very much to others, but it works well for me.

I started out using the other budgeting method, planning to spend up to £365 Per room and a total for the whole house of around £3650. ($500 per room and $5000 for the house for those in the US.)

But I pretty quickly realized that My numbers were right for the initial investment, but I had to accept that I might have to replace a high percentage every three or four years. So over 20 years my real budget was going to be much higher, but it could be broken down into that monthly cost of around £100 ($125).

And I thought, OK, if that solves The problems I need solved, I can manage that.

So today I am a problem solver working with a monthly Home Automation as a service budget.

If you’d like to see the details of the big problems that I needed solved, I posted a project report about that:

Adding Home Automation in Phases: my limited investment strategy

Someone else might have a budget of £25 pounds a month or a budget of £200 a month, and they might base it on a two year replacement cycle or four years or even five. The point isn’t the specific numbers. It’s whether you are comfortable with the idea that you might have to replace anything or everything in a relatively short period of time. as people do with mobile phones. Or whether your budget expectation is more in line with rewiring the ceiling fittings: barring a major disaster or a major renovation, you see it as a one time sunk cost.

Well, that’s enough to start, but I would begin by thinking about whether you are going to be a hobbyist or a problem solver in the way you select devices. And how you want to approach budgeting. once you know the answers to those questions, we can start talking about specifics. :wink:

3 Likes

Also, once you have a sense of whether you are a hobbyist or a problem solver, and how you’d like to budget for home automation, you might find the following planning FAQ of interest.

These are the questions I ask someone if they want my help at the start of a project. I think just seeing the questions will give you a good idea of why I’m asking, but if not, feel free to ask why. :sunglasses:

The topic title is a clickable link.

2 Likes

What he said :arrow_up::grin:

2 Likes

Well that was incredibly informative and it looks like I’ve come to the right place for help- I’d say practicality hobbyist was my type, though I want to turn the lights on via a smart device I want to use retractable switches that will act as a override should things be playing up, I want external cameras to do what they do and I’d like a option for them to trigger a external light should someone cross a set threshold- heating control the same. I want heating control that supports Geo location but if I could tie that in with a smart door lock etc then that’s good.
Basically ittt technology interests me, but I want to know what works. The wiring isn’t a issue as U.K. about to undertake a full rewire, where I am likely to take cat6 cables to every switch location ‘just in case’

So if I have to start at 4 projects then here they are:

  1. lighting control (zigbee liking good here on retractable switches with Alexa driving it)

  2. external HIK cameras that can switch external lighting if someone crosses a set threshold

3 ) heating control (happy not to integrate with anything but cool if it could)

  1. smart locks integration with alarm system

What would your answer to these problems be?

1 Like

Gareth, do you have access to official Hiks or know someone that can buy official Hiks ?
Do NOT buy from amazon or ebay

Hiks are arguably one of the best BUT do not integrate with ST

Personally I don’t care that they do not integrate in my view they need to be separate

Hiks and the right model that suits you would be a whole nother post but rest assured everything you want to do is achievable one way or another

Lights coming on with movement at night is easy and cheap and again should not be controlled by a camera leave movement to a proper motion detector

For detailed instructions it is best you create separate posts or search here on the forum for separate projects

Take one thing at a time

Heating… it may be prudent to stick with Nest, and as luck has it, very soon Nest is integrating with ST, do not under estimate Nest stats, they are very clever and with ST integration (should) be even better

Smart locks, my very personal opinion, should NEVER be used, I would never trust an Internet reliant device to control locks but each to there own

Tbh I’m excited for you, I know you are going to find some great stuff to do balanced with WTF… this should work… what’s wrong with it ( ala national lampoons Christmas vacation )

2 Likes

Righto Mike understood, as I say I’m an electrician so lighting control is pretty basic for me I just wanted to take it up a level. Yes I have a contact who can purchase the Hiks for me, I’ve got a dome camera here with POE switch I’ll just add to that config when it’s time.

First thing to search is door lock and alarm then I guess as a smart things hub with samotech zigbee switches seem to tick the boxes I want it too

SmartThings is not fit for purpose as a security system. :disappointed_relieved: It’s not just my opinion, the company says so themselves in their product usage guidelines.

It’s very important to understand that smartthings is primarily a cloud-based system. That means that not only does the Internet have to be working, but the smartthings cloud has to be available even just to change the status of the system from armed to disarmed. (Seriously, there is no way locally to change the mode.)

And there is no way, none, to send notifications, even to your own phone, unless the smartthings cloud is available.

And the app won’t work at all unless the smartthings cloud is available even if it is on the same Wi-Fi as your hub.

They didn’t have to design it that way, but they did. At the time of this writing, The only part of smartthings which is even eligible to run locally is the official smartlighting feature, and then only some parts of it and only with some devices. All “custom code“ runs in the cloud. You don’t get to load it onto your own hub.

So even if you were just looking for a selfmonitored notification system, Smartthings is just not suitable for most people. It’s OK if you just want convenience notifications, like a reminder that a guestroom window was left open when rain was expected. But not for a notification that your house is on fire or someone has come in through a window.

There are a number of other security systems in the DIY low cost tier like Ring and Yale that have battery back ups and cellular communications. It’s just that smartthings isn’t one of them. So many of us, myself included, run a separate security system.

See the following. (Again the topic title is a clickable link.)

Oh no, u don’t get it that easy :grin:, some of the best ways to make things work actually are counter intuitive

Example
Exterior lighting, you would hard wire your lights back to a fused spur and have a switch to turn them on off, normal logical stuff but then that leaves the question, how do I make it smart !
Simply don’t wire to a fused spur, take the power from a basic 13amp plug but the plug is plugged into a smart socket.
For the UK thats not really how we do things and as a sparky you won’t like it BUT, its actually OK to do it that way just not usual. Doing it with a 13amp plug and a smart socket makes things easy to fit and cheap, you could source a zigbee wall plate socket but in my view, if it ever goes wrong its a pain to fix, a smart plug however, easy and cheap to replace plus you keep the existing never go wrong crabtree or whatever you borrowed from the last job :wink:

1 Like

Welcome to Smartthings Gareth, the ethos is great but the ST app that controls it stinks but what can ya do, it works mostly

2 Likes

There are lots of different ways of doing everything. But plan what you want to do before starting as its an expensive way to do things over and over.
For lights, use smart light switches, that way its (mostly) irrelevant what type of lamp (bulb) you have. There are lots out there within every price bracket. Ranging from cheap WiFi or zigbee switches to more expensive Lightwaverf switches. Also dropped you a PM as I’m also in South Wales.

1 Like

@Gareth_Williams1

Morning, UK based here too.

All I’d say to keep this forum-friendly is you really need to check out The Alternative Hubs thread elsewhere.

There are a huge amount of users who were huge smartthings fans for a good few years (including myself) and now, after various changes made to this platform, cannot and do not recommend its use for any of the things you mentioned.

If a mate was talking about plunging into the smart home market, I wouldn’t be acting like a friend if I allowed him to purchase a ST hub without giving him the same advice. IMO, it’s shocking. And you’ll have nothing but problems.

I’ve done all 3. Not the 4th.

  1. Was horrendous on smartthings. Delays or misses to triggers was ridiculous at points. Hubitat - awesome.

  2. I use blue iris linked into hubitat.

  3. The heating was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me on smartthings. I currently have a fairly sophisticated system using webcore, hubitat and thermal actuators. Very cheap, all off the shelf components, and utterly reliable.

I’m sure there will be a few users who still swear by smartthings. I wouldn’t go near it. Its horrendous.

Each to there own, apart from a few zwave smart plug issues and the fibaro rgbw controler I have had no issues , or at least nothing that is going to make me change

I do keep things within the realms of stability and do not expect ST to run my whole home, it was never designed or advertised as a whole home one stop automation platform, it was always designed for retro fit

Each user has different needs, for me it is perfect

For standard rad heating, nest is more than enough , with the upcoming ST tie in as said above it will be a nice inclusion

Hiks are for security, keep those as security and let there on board software do the work, it is extremely good and 100% reliable, as long as you get official Hiks with the CORRECT lens

Get installations correct and it is fit and forget, expect too much with complicated installations and exotic manufactures and its fit and maintain forever

1 Like